Complications of a Flea Infestation
Fleas make many people think of skin irritation from itchy bites, but these pests can cause other complications as well. Prevention is essential for avoiding larger problems down the road; however, if your animals develop secondary issues from flea infestations, knowing a little bit about the problem will help you choose a solution.
Dogs and cats can contract tapeworms from fleas either by eating their eggs or by being bitten. You can tell that your pet has tapeworms if you notice small, rice-like white grains in their feces. These are segments of the worms. Tapeworm treatment involves administering a dewormer, which will kill and dissolve the worms. Tapeworms are as different from other intestinal parasites as dogs are from cats. When targeting tapeworms, use a product with praziquantel, either by itself or in combination product. For dogs we recommend products such as Worm X Plus and for cats, we suggest using Drontal for Cats or Profender for Cats.
Fleas subsist on the blood of their hosts, and therefore, a severe flea infestation can lead to anemia in affected animals. This is most common in very young puppies and kittens or in sick or elderly animals, as their bodies can't make new red blood cells as rapidly. Animals with severe anemia may require blood transfusions and hospitalization. A comprehensive premise treatment is the only way to prevent reinfestation.
Flea Infestations at Home
Finding out your home is pest-ridden may be devastating, but with diligence and planning, you can get rid of the fleas and prevent them from returning. Attend to your pets first, as they risk contracting tapeworms or anemia from fleas, as discussed above. Bathing your pet in a flea shampoo or dip is the first step to getting rid of the initial infestation. Do not use products labeled for dogs on cats or vice versa. Applying a topical flea and tick medication such as Fiproguard or Advantage II will help protect your pet, as will oral flea medicines including Capstar. Flea collars provide an additional precaution.
The next step is vital to prevent more problems with fleas: removing them from your home. Understanding that fleas fall or jump off your pet anytime they want, and therefore could be anywhere, will help you clean thoroughly. Carpet powders, foggers, and sprays can help purge hard-to-reach areas such as thick rugs or cracks in hardwood floors. Products containing Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) prevent flea pupae from maturing and eventually kill them, providing an effective solution for undeveloped fleas.
Attending to outdoor areas in a similar fashion also helps fight fleas. Anywhere your animals hang out – whether under the porch, in the grass, or even in their kennels – needs to be sprayed or fogged with an appropriate pest control solution.
Avoiding the initial bite or infestation is the best way to protect your pet from developing the complications we discussed. Be sure to employ preventative measures including topical treatments, collars, and sprays or foggers, and always check your animals for ticks and fleas after adventuring outdoors.
If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.
Don Bramlage, DVM, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
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